Interest free loans worth Rs 500 million were rolled out for people of Sindh under Ehsaas Programme, which is a part of the National Poverty Graduation Initiative.A cheque distribution ceremony was held at Governor House on Monday and Governor Sindh Imran Ismail distributed the cheques amongst the beneficiaries.

Speaking at the event, Governor Sindh said that millions of households in Pakistan suffered from extreme poverty and even they were unable to access basic necessities of life."We believed that Ehsaas Programme's interest free loan programme can help them forge a better future for themselves. It is our government's priority to serve the underprivileged sector of Pakistan and through the Ehsaas program we envision to drive millions out of the circle of poverty," he added.

“This initiative will not only allow us create employment opportunities but will also be crucial towards economic prosperity," Governor Sindh said.

Talking about this programme, Chief Executive Officer Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) Qazi Azmat Isa expressed hope that such initiatives would help bring major transformation in the lives of the poor. “Societies can only thrive if people work in collaboration to uplift each other. Ehsaas programme is one such example of a fruitful partnership which shall immensely benefit the people of Pakistan," he added.

Addressing the ceremony, Head of Programmes at PPAF Simi Kamal highlighted the role of Ehsaas programme and the impact it aimed to create. She said the National Poverty Graduation Initiative aimed at steering the poorest of households out of poverty by providing them interest free loans, helping them to establish small scale businesses to improve their economic conditions. “It is PPAF's vision and mission to facilitate the underprivileged sector and work for their prosperous future," she added.

Under the Ehsaas programme, loans worth Rs 13.8 billion have been disbursed so far among 413,390 borrowers, out of which some 46 percent are women. In Sindh alone, interest free loans of around Rs 500 million have been rolled out to more than 15,000 borrowers of which 70 percent are women. The initiative draws funds from the Government of Pakistan, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In total Rs 42.65 billion have been set aside for 100 districts across the country under the Ehsaas Programme. The amount will impact 16.28 million people with 50 percent women including youth, persons with disabilities, transgender, minorities and marginalized communities.During the next four years, as many as 3.8 million interest free loans will be provided to 2.28 million households. In total, 14.7 million people will benefit from this component. The programme is being executed through PPAF and Akhuwat Foundation.

National Poverty Graduation Initiative has three major components and will provide relief to the masses through asset transfers, vocational & skills trainings and interest-free loans. 80,000 interest free loans are being disbursed every month while the maximum loan size is Rs 75,000. Another component of this initiative is asset transfers, 225,000 assets will be provided to the poorest of the poor to start their businesses. The average cost of the asset which will be given as a grant is about Rs 50,000.A transparent process has been followed to enable the poor to seek asset of their choice. The asset recipients will also be provided business trainings to draw maximum benefit from the asset provided to them. Under this component over 9,000 assets will be distributed every month over the next two years.It may be mentioned here that Ehsaas is Pakistan's biggest programme for poverty mitigation which aimed at collaborating with all stakeholders including public, private, civil society, philanthropists, and expatriate Pakistanis towards one collective goal, poverty alleviation.At present loans around Rs 500 million have been disbursed amongst more than 15,000 deserving individuals, out of which 10,000 are women in Sindh province. Any Pakistani aged between 18-60 years belonging to the listed 100 districts can get these loans.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019